Children on the autism spectrum and those with other social, cognitive or psychological disorders commonly struggle to communicate, complete tasks, socialize and function successfully in everyday interactions.

Navigating the day-to-day can become a constant battle. ABA Therapy (short for Applied Behavioral Analysis) promotes safety, addresses aggression, strengthens social and adaptive learning skills, prevents regression, provides invaluable self-regulation skills and lays the foundation for greater success at home, school, work and wherever your child seeks to thrive.

ABA therapy is the gold standard recognized for treating socially-significant behaviors. Such behaviors if untreated can thwart a child’s ability to engage within their families, peers and communities in a way that is meaningful absent constant disruption or danger.

Brecksville ABA therapy at Therapy and Wellness Connection focuses on positive reinforcement to encourage helpful behaviors and limit those that imperil safety, social interaction and academic success.

We team with Thrive Therapy and Social Center to provide children with autism and other qualifying conditions the opportunity to access the best Northeast Ohio ABA Therapy services and support with a team consisting of:

  • Board Certified Behavior Analyst – Doctoral (BcBA-D)

  • Board Certified Assistant Behavior Analysists (BcABA)

  • Registered Behavior Technicians (RBTs)

In addition to proving effective in treating the behavioral and social challenges associated with autism, ABA therapy has also proven beneficial for children and adults and adults with conditions like Oppositional Defiance Disorder (ODD),  Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), Panic Disorder, Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) and Obsessive-Compulsive Disorder (OCD).

“We don’t just teach social skills,” Thrive Founder and Behavior Specialist Hannah Flynn said. “We teach social thinking and understanding so that children can apply what they learn wherever they go.”

What Does ABA Therapy Accomplish?

For individuals with autism or other qualifying conditions, our positive-reinforcement ABA therapy in Brecksville has been shown to help with:

  • Increase in positive behaviors. (This includes things like staying on task or engaging in appropriate social interaction.)

  • Learn new skills. (These could be skills relating to social, communication or life functions – anything from toileting and self-care to how to function in a classroom.)

  • Reduction of interfering behaviors. (Teaching tools for self-control, self-monitoring, trigger avoidance and generalization of useful skills – the goal being reduced instances of self-injury or stereotypy or repetition. The latter may not hurt anyone, but it can be an impediment to function).

  • Generalizing controlled responses. (If a child has learned to stay on task and complete assignments in classrooms with heavy support, ABA therapy may be used to teach them to perform these same tasks in mainstream classes).

  • Identification and reduction of interfering behavior triggers. (This could mean modification of the learning environment with things like filtering fluorescent lights or providing headphones to block the sensory-inducing din of constant classroom chatter.)

ABA therapists will start with an evaluation to identify common interfering behaviors and triggers and determine how the “consequences” that follow are reinforcing the behaviors. We all know that “rewarding bad behavior” often has undesirable results. However, what many parents must understand is that sometimes even a negative response can be a “reward” – if it’s getting the child/person what they want (attention, avoidance, sensory input, sensory relief, etc.).

How Does ABA Therapy Work?

Applied Behavioral Analysis is the scientific study of learning and behavior. We recognize that behavior is the most basic form of communication. A behavior tells us something about what a person is thinking or feeling – even if they aren’t expressing it with clear intention and purpose. Particularly when a person is non-verbal or limited in communication skills, it’s up to us to sort out what that behavior conveys. That will help us figure out what to do next.

Our job as ABA therapists is not only to identify the behaviors but then also determine how they may be affected by a person’s environment and what changes can be made to alter adverse outcomes.

We do this by breaking it all down into three steps:

  • Antecedent. What happens right before the target behavior?

  • Behavior. This is the child’s response (or lack of response) to the antecedent.

  • Consequence. What happens directly after the response. Is it positively rewarded somehow when it shouldn’t be?

This will hopefully tell us:

  • Why the behavior is happening.

  • Whether a different consequence would reduce interfering behaviors and increase positive behaviors.

By identifying triggers and analyzing the behavior and outcome, we can work to change the antecedent or consequence in a way that thwarts or disincentivizes undesired behaviors while rewarding those that are functional.

Parents are often surprised to learn that sometimes the reaction we might have with a typically-developing child has the opposite effect on a child on the autism spectrum. Inappropriate or undesired behavior might be reinforced by a parent responding loudly and angrily, in which case we’ll recommend neutral reaction – or none at all.

Example:  A is child has started engaging in the undesired behavior of hitting their parent – repeatedly and hard – while seated in a grocery cart. The child might even laugh inappropriately at mom or dad’s show of pain or shouted admonition. The parent doesn’t understand; they aren’t “letting them get away with it” or rewarding them for hitting. What are they missing?

What the parent doesn’t realize is that he/she actually is reinforcing this behavior (though unintentionally) because the behavior is giving the child what they want: Attention. It doesn’t matter that the attention is negative. In the first place, he may have a difficult time understanding the difference, and it’s much more interesting to have an adult excited, yelling and making faces at you than being ignored during a boring shopping trip. That doesn’t mean the child is intentionally trying to inflict pain or be mean. Still, understanding the “why” can help you alter the “consequence,’ therefore depriving the child of the reward they sought (and were receiving) with the behavior. A parent who alters their response to a neutral expression, simply moving out of reach or ignoring, and combines this with over-the-top positive attention while the child is seated quietly and calmly with hands to themselves – may find the behavior changes after a few times of this.

We might also head off issues by altering the antecedent. For example, if lighting or noise in a situation is likely to create sensory overload and undue frustration for the child, ask first whether it’s necessary for the child to be there? Sometimes it’s unavoidable or it’s a place they’ll have to get used to (ie., the grocery store or an airport). In that case, is it possible that adjustments like light dimmers or filters would help? Sunglasses? A pair of noise-canceling headphones to filter the sound?

Sometimes behaviors arise as a result of difficulty with transitions, not understanding or knowing how to cope when moving from one activity or place to the next. Visual schedules can help.

Is ABA Therapy Truly Effective?

The applied behavioral analysis method to addressing significant behaviors has been around since the 1960s. Although some (primarily insurance companies) insist the treatment is still “experimental,” our Brecksville ABA therapists know this is one of the most effective treatment for helping children with ASD and other connections to excel. Not only do we have our own experience, it has been proven in decades of peer-reviewed research. Results don’t happen overnight, but parents are often blown away by how much progress their child begins to make over the course of months and years.

Children with ASD and other conditions tend to do the best when their ABA therapy starts early (before age 3 or as soon as possible thereafter) and for at least 20 hours weekly. This, in combination with speech therapy, occupational therapy and physical therapy, is associated with the best outcomes.

Although the recommended therapy schedule for ABA may seem overwhelming at first, our goal as Brecksville ABA therapy providers is to reduce the long-term impact of disruptive behaviors – as much for the child as for the people around them. They learn more appropriate ways of asserting their wants and needs and ways to reduce the anxiety and frustration before harmful behavior are triggered.

Our Brecksville ABA therapists, also serving clients in Broadview Heights, Cleveland, Akron and surrounding communities can help answer your questions on the behavior analysis method and ways in which we tailor our services specifically for your child.

Thrive Social Center Programs

In addition to ABA therapy, the Thrive Therapy and Social Center, a partner of Therapy and Wellness Connection team, offers special courses at our clinic to address common but narrow concerns. Each is tailored according to age (with programs from toddler to adult), unique interests and areas of challenge with the goal of maximizing function and independence in all aspects of life. Current course offerings include:

  • Building Friendships Through Play (greetings, joining in, asking someone to play, cooperating, functional play).

  • Getting Along with Friends (meeting, making and keeping friends).

  • Moving on With Friends (problem-solving, perspective-taking, bullies, unwritten rules of friendship).

  • Formulas for Social Success (skills and motivations necessary to make good impressions, establish a positive reputation, recognize what others thing and respect authority).

  • Self-Advocacy and Self-Management (socially appropriate behavior, listening skills, conversation repair strategies, reputation and being assertive).

  • Social Boundaries (dramatic changes in social and behavioral success, self-management, perspective taking and critically important social rules and expectations).

  • Tweens/ Teens and Tame Technology (appropriate boundaries and expectations for safe, healthy online friendships and relationships).

  • Young Adults Group (personal and social issues in a group therapy format addressing self-reflection, goal-setting and other tools necessary to be independent and maintain positive relationships).

  • Functional Reading (assist readers of all ages and levels in improving their reading comprehension for school, work and enjoyment).

For information on ABA therapy and other services at Therapy and Wellness Connection and Thrive Social Center, connect with us through email or give us a call.